Monday, April 30, 2012

Love Betwixt Universes

There has always been something alluring about a love that must transverse, or transcend between two, unlike universes. The fictional stories abound, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Avatar and several within Greek mythology of mortals engaged, romantically with immortals . . . to name a few. More recently it has been girl meets vampire type of stories.  In reality, there are some other examples (Grace Kelly and the Prince of Monaco).  While such loves enchant us, in reality they come with complications, which the fairy tales don't even pretend to address.

I remember having a beer with a young Navigator staff guy, Dave, in a foreign country. He was betrothed to a national girl. The elder staff guy was delighted in the match, a match literally (in his eyes) made in Heaven. I was a little uncomfortable with the arrangement because Dave was young (22 I think) wet behind the ears and was only in the country for a year.  The senior Nav staff guy thought it was wonderful that one of their new converts was going to marry a "godly man" something the girl would have a hard time finding among her own people.  I looked at their roots. The southern, what you might call red neck, guy and a girl from a Muslim world and who had never even been outside her country.

After sipping his beer Dave said to me, "I'm being attacked by Satan."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"I feel that I don't love or even know Mona . . . and we are getting married in two months.  I know that God has brought us together, so these doubts are Satanic attacks."

I could try and deconstruct that thinking but that would side-track me. I will simply say that I told Dave to cancel the wedding. He said to do so would be an act of disobedience to God.  He married her. I lost contact with them and have no clue as to how they are doing.

After that long introduction, the thing I wanted to explore is within my personal world.  My wife, Denise, and I have entered different universes . . . yet we still love each other. Finding resolution in these situations are hard.  I guess I'm the beast in this story . . .  certainly not the charming prince, or even the prince of Monaco. I'm too the mortal.

When we first met, thirty years ago, she was a Midwest Lutheran who just recently discovered evangelicalism through Inner Varsity Fellowship.  I, on the other hand, was born in the Bible belt, raised as a Baptist (and taught that Lutherans weren't real Christians). Then I had just spent eight years with intense training with the Navigators.  I had not kissed a girl since I was 17 and when I met Denise I was 24. At the time we met, I was in frankly living in a evangelical monastery. We didn't associate with women. We spent our days praying and memorizing verses, if not sharing the Gospel.

When we first got married, Denise felt intimidated by my "spirituality."  I saw  myself as a godly man and she did too. But then things changed. Over the years I've pulled her deeper and deeper into Evangelism.  For a few years of bliss we were both at the center of it and "equally yoked."  But then came the age of my great disillusionment.  It came in step by step fashion. It took me twenty years to complete my fall.

So, it has been a year and a half since I left our evangelical church. I had no choice. I'm so glad I did.  It was a no-brainer for me to go. But, equally, it was a no-brainer for her to stay.  Her closes friends go to that church. She still believes all that makes up that culture.  She honestly enjoys the Sunday morning service, the praise singing and respects the pastor . . . the same one which came to my house in a fit of rage screaming at me when he found out I was leaving his church.  It was a painful chapter. There is no resolution. Humpty Dumpty can't be reassembled. Maybe if we were to move to a far away place we could find a meeting place between us, at a Lutheran church. But for now it is learning art of loving in dissonance.

I remember Mike Spencer sharing a glimpse of the turmoil of his heart when his wife, also Denise, joined the Catholic Church. He couldn't get his head around it.  But he loved her as she did him. They had to find this place of mutual respect for each other.

So my Denise and I are striving to bridge this gap.  It can't be resolved mechanically. I would make a miserable evangelical. She doesn't see the point of my transition out of it. But, we love each other . . . we must love each other . . . across the great chasm and through the interface between matter and antimatter.


Anonymous said...

Maybe if you're lucky, unlike Padme, she will come to embrase the Dark Side. Euwha ha ha ha ha ha. :-)

Dana said...

I left the Evangelical world in 2000, but didn't step too far away - went to the local PCUSA, which is a fairly conservative congregation, but not rigid in any way - certainly more flexible on many things than what I left. My husband would come to church with me on the Sundays he didn't have to work; he liked the pastor, but even the Presby worship was too "liturgical" for him... After we hired a female pastor he did not darken the door again. He stays in the Ev. world; there are not a lot of choices in my small town, so he is at the "least objectionable" church, the second one since he got Sundays off and could go to church where he wanted to. My becoming Orthodox really threw him for a loop.

The hardest part of it for me is that he doesn't want to talk about about my journey, simply in an effort to know me and what has gone on with me - not when I left E'ism, nor as I was headed toward EO. It has taken him 3 years to ask me a real question about a historical point. It took him 18 months to come to a social event. He has never gone into the church building, even to observe - thinks icons are "graven images" and so forbidden.

I think the lack of communication has been because he so afraid of being Wrong, and what that means for him (old baggage). On one level, I certainly was afraid of being too forthcoming about what was going on with me, especially when our kids were still at home, and that didn't help, either. I used to care a lot about being Right, so I can relate, but that faded away in the wake of all the (mostly) theological distress I suffered along the way. I am at home in EO more than I have been anywhere else in my life. Whether I'm "right" or not, I trust that God knows my heart and is merciful.

To my husband's great credit, he continues to love me and care for me. It wouldn't bother him so much if he didn't. I can't see him ever becoming O., or even coming to a place of respect for Orthodoxy, but we are loving one another as best we can in the interface.


jmj said...

Dana, it is hard when the issue is dogma. For Denise it is just culture. She loves her church because of her friends and it is the style that she likes. If her pastor started teaching that we should Jesus was just a man, she would stay because that is not important to her. If she doesn't respect me it is because I made too much of a deal out of issues.

In your case, it is hard because your husband sees it as doctrine or dogma.

PRS & ALS said...

You are fortunate to be in a marriage where your love continues to bind you together. I too am fortunate that my husband is committed to our marriage and loves me and I feel the same way. We've been through some difficult times, the worst of which was recovery of childhood incest by my "Christian" father. This tested the strength of our relationship and has made it stronger. Through subsequent years I've been more open about my questions about the church and evangelicalism, the Bible, etc. My husband is not comfortable at times with those questions and doubts, but the more I've opened up and explained how I feel, without making him feel like he needs to agree with me, the more he is able to listen. And I've gradually seen changes in his way of thinking as well. We still go to the same church...and fortunately are in a church with a pastor who calls himself and progressive traditionalist. So it works for us both. We're also part of a group called "Faithful Doubters" where we have some lively discussions.

kg said...

It takes time, love, and respect on both sides. it can even deepen your relationship.
Some of your wife's congregation won't understand it---that's ok, smile and enjoy what you have.

jmj said...


Sorry about what you've been through. I knew a family that went through what you did, father a pastor who molested the kids and etc., and who remained a pastor until this day . . . and the kids (both in their 20s) are the most messed up people I've ever met. So it is something that you can survive that and remain sane.

PRS & ALS said...

Yes, I am truly blessed in so many ways.

Philip said...

I write a lot on my blog and no one ever comments. It bugs me of course, but I press on because I know there are a lot of people like me who read but don't comment too much. Just wanted to let you know that your blog is one of the most fun, informative and helpful blogs that I've found. You're a real gift, love your thoughts and I love reading your stuff.

Keep it up!
Phil (Oh yeah, I'm the Campus Crusade for Christ/writer guy, also finding myself in the wilderness a lot)